Friday, May 10, 1996

Lots of Inquiries.
Since putting up a WebSite on the 26th of January, 1996, I've had considerable success from the effort. Seems people (over 6,599 as of 5/6/96) from all over the world have found this WebSite and once here, have some fun and learn useful information about gardening, trees, mulch and dozens of other topics. A university webmaster (he's a PhD and Chairman of the School of Horticulture) of one of the horticultural insitiutions that I've featured on my Search Page said, "John, your ads read like fact sheets; I'm stunned to find so much information all in one place. Nothing like it exists anywhere else. Your WebSite is now required reading for my classes." Cool and thanks, Mike.
I just learned last week that the same webmaster used my WebSite as the main focus of a two-day horticultural seminar in Texas, in which several national trade magazine editors attended. After the conference, the editors called me for interviews, and the articles will be out in August in "Garden Center Management" Magazine, "Nursery Pro" Magazine and "Garden Center Pro" Magazine. After their release, I'll have them on-line for all to read. Very cool. I'm very humbled by the attention.


The horticulture industy is extremely backward; by this I mean the techniques and methods that most of us view as commonplace, (been there, done that) and standard operating proceedures that we take for granted in our daily business lives, are actually foreign to 97% of all garden centers and nurseries in the USA. I can't speak for anyother country, but we're way behind here. It's almost embarassing to see things on this primitive of a level in a business sector that so dominates everyone's thoughts from spring to fall. Most places have some sort of a cash register, some still use cigar boxes as cash drawers, a few have computers and even less are at the point I am: Web Pages on line. Not a snowball's chance. Over the winter, I sent my foreman and crew chief to the PNA (Pennsylvania Nurseryman's assocation) Conference in Hershey, PA for three days of forums and workshops. While there, Alan and Marc heard all about the "recession" everyone suffered last year; it was sure news to us! It was our best year ever, but many at the Conference had real problems. Additionally, the level of business sophistication was quite noticeably low amongst attendees, they said. No one knew much about computers, let alone the InterNet, the Web or POS (Point Of Sale) software systems that could help grow their business. We're fully computerized now. Oh sure, each system's software has its quirks, but somehow we get through it all to fight again another day.
There's no use in trying to change an industry that's not ready to change, especially from my position. I'm an outspoken advocate of internal change, but that alone won't make it so. A really savvy computer company could make a big impact here with hardware, software and training if they desired. The whole place is wide open for the taking. They could own the industy outright. What's around now is arcane and outdated, or adapted from another industry and just doesn't quite do the job.
In the 70s, Apple Computer gave thousands of schools their fledgling computers to get kids hooked on the 'Apple way' of doing things. And it worked. Many are still addicted to Apples and Macs today. I can't figure out why, but they are. They grew up with the slow, clumbsy machines and still cling to them out of a fear of change.
In the horticulture industry, there are a lot of shitpy little marketing (I use the term loosely here) shops and dinky ad (again, I really use the term loosely) agencies that produce junky circulars and ad slicks for everyone and anyone to use. Just fill-in the blanks with your prices and customize it. Absolute shit. Not a creative group in the entire industry. That's why I designed my own software on the Windows platform in MS Excel, Word and Works. Nothing suitable to my standards existed. The advertising creation and implementation would always be in my arena anyway; not a chance I'd let someone else write my stuff. Check out the advertising we do, it'll amaze you with its non-conventional methodology. The Positioning is clear and precise, the Marketing Warfare tactics and strategy are defined and resilient to the point of being obvious, yet no one can counter them with anything they have at their disposal. The bottom line is that it works everytime; thousands of people read, remember and collect our ads. Way cool and thanks!

Time To Upgrade.

After talking to the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nurseryman's association (PLNA) in Harrisburg, I was disappointed to find that they really don't care much about the quality of advertising within the industry here. They're more concerned about making generic ad slicks that anyone can use just by filling-in the blanks; you know, the same shitpy stuff that all those junk shops turn out and exhibit at the Trade Shows. This is trash that should be banned from the business world in its entirety. I don't expect too much from them yet, since it's a whole new group of people in there; the old crew was dismissed en masse' over a year ago when I was on the Communications Committee and all new faces were brought in. New but inexperienced in the ways of the industry. I was referred to someone at Penn State for further assistance.
So I called Penn State University and asked for the person who is responsible for the Nursery Conference in Hershey every year. He's away for a week or so and I left a message and an email for him to return the call. I want to host a workshop or seminar on Web Marketing, Positioning and Marketing Warfare for the attendees of the PLNA Conference in Hershey. More on this as it develops.

It's A Whole New World.

If the Nursery Industry doesn't get with some sort of coherent program soon, most operators of the little garden centers will be gone; Chapter 13 victims of the larger and better-marketed operations. Cigar boxes and cash registers will be relegated to museums, and the little garden center will die out. Of course, the filthy roadside, sub-human junk merchants will survive for a while, but they too will ultimately be gone. Why? Because they can't keep treading water forever. Something has to give, and it will be the small owners that cave-in. I can't say that I'll be sorry to see them go, but it's another indication of the instability, rigidity and complete inflexibility of a multi-billion dollar industry going hi-tech and large operation-oriented for the 21st century.
Wake up and smell the coffee! Make the change now and avoid court and legal costs of bankruptcy; it's a big waste of time. Don't let the conglomerates force you into selling and giving-up your way of life; fight back and upgrade NOW before it's way too late!

Murphy's Law.

One of my readers wrote this about an experience with a visit from Murphy :

"One night, while I was working on some spreadsheets for my job, the monitor started acting funny. It began blinking on and off rapidly and then went to a black screen. I turned off the power switch, and when I restarted the monitor, the old TV show, Gilligan's Island, was on the screen. Our 27" Sony was in for repairs and my 9-year old son had hooked up the VCR to the monitor! The spreadsheets were gone and TV re-runs were playing. It took quite some time to straighten out the connections so the computer worked properly after that. The TV is back now and my son has been instructed not to fool around with the computer."

I've never had that kind of an experience with a computer (aka TV), but I have seen some strange stuff coming from that box sometimes. Heh, heh, heh...


The InterNet and the Web are beginning to change the way we do business; like it or not, it is the way of the future, we just don't know which way yet. Each of us must learn to adapt or suffer the consequences of lagging further behind and eventually losing business and going out of business. There's no alternative to progress; it's either..., or...
Change is good; it forces a re-thinking of priorities and can help wipe out those nasty little pockets of resistance that keep each of us from doing what should and must be done in order to evolve. It is evolution, not revolution that makes positive change happen and keeps it palatable for those laggards who must catch up or perish. Those who can and do adapt will survive; the rest are goners.
To be on the cusp or the leading edge of something totally new is cool. To not know where it's going to take us is a little unnerving, since there's a major degree of uncertainty involved right now as things develop. It's a real leap of faith. We all take it for granted that it will be a positive adventure, since comparisons between the Web, Radio and TV have been used, and the latter two industries flourished handsomely after bumpy starts.


Most companies aren't concerned about their image, and that's a shame. Appearance, price, service, product all contribute to image; the "Position" you hold in the customer's mind. If the image is positive, repeat sales are garnered on a frequent basis. If the image isn't positive, well you know what happens; the customer goes where s/he can have a positive experience and you lose sales.
To be obsessed with an image is as bad as being unconcerned about it. Be cognizant that it is important to both you and your customer's well-being. Your Position is your image.

Web Marketing.

I will be teaching classes about Web Marketing this summer to a group of high-powered executive newbies in Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland from several Fortune 100 Companies. They asked me to put on a seminar that includes Positioning and Marketing Warfare, solid and practical techniques I learned from Jack Trout and Al Ries at Trout & Ries Advertising, Inc., in New York, during the 80s. Best years in the business I ever had. They had abandoned the ad business and moved to Greenwich, CT, where they lived with their families, to continue a very lucrative marketing-consulting business. I just learned from Jack that he and Al split up after all these years as a team; it's sad that an era has come to an end. But those two delightful people revolutionized the advertising industry and forced every corporate advertiser to re-think the way customers view their company and related product(s). Talk about leading edge stuff.
To present the concepts of Positioning and Marketing Warfare as they affect Web Marketing, I am being forced to also re-think some precepts that I held when I worked in the advertising world. Precepts that are now becoming archaic and olsolete on the InterNet, but are still being used widely by those who are blind to change.

Our Advertising Works.

Today, Thursday, I was amused to hear about the flood of calls coming in about our latest ad, The Junk Merchants. It seems that it and the famous Mulch: Myth vs Reality, Parts 1-2-3 ads that I wrote last year are still provoking controversy and sparking animated conversations. This is the purpose of marketing and what good advertising is supposed to do: generate attention and (positive) controversy.
My landscape foreman mentioned that while he and his family were at a church function last Sunday, the topic of my unique advertising came up and was viewed positively, except for one lady who thought I was as "arrogant as Rush Limbaugh" when I called the "roadside scum", scum. I meant what I said. I do not imply that all roadside vendors are scum, just the ones who knowingly sell diseased, insect-riddled, sub-standard plant material to unsuspecting motorists. Let's be real clear on that point. Additionally, we hear from walk-in customers and phone-ins about our advertising all the time; every ad we do gets noticed and discussed.
I enjoy stopping at some roadside stands that farmers have on their property for the purpose of selling their home-grown fresh vegetables and fruit. But there is a big difference between that viable concept and the low-class, deceptive growers selling trash off-their-premises by renting a tent on a vacant lot and taking blatant advantage of people who stop for a bargain. These people are the worst of the worst. Real scum and right down there with criminals. The local municipalities, to their credit, have tried to remove this filth from the roadsides, but have been stopped in court by unscroupulous attorneys for the vendors. Actually, if the "bargain hunters" would stop patronizing the roadside filth vendors, the scum would soon dissappear. But that will never happen; people are addicted to "deals". A pity.

Don't Be Fooled.

Many people are raised on "deals"; that is, they always ask for and expect a discount or price reduction on everything. The world just doesn't work that way in every case; mine being one of them. High quality isn't a bargaining issue here; it's a way of doing business with those persons who demand and expect the very best, whatever it costs. They're willing to pay for the priviledge of owning the finest plant material that I sell.
In my FAQs, I cite several situations where people have demanded discounts, bought elsewhere on price only and all have ended up paying more in the long run for their insistence on bargains. You always get what you pay for. And that old addage still holds true to this day, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."


On Wednesday morning at 11:15am, all the CGI counters we use at our ISPs server mysteriously crashed and reset to zero. Does anyone know why this happens? If you do, please email me. At last count on 5/7/96 just prior to the crash, over 6,599 visitors had come to my Garden Center & Nursery to explore many things and enjoy themselves. Now I'll never have an accurate mechanical count. Oh well, sometimes a clean sheet of paper is the best way to go...

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